Cold weather fills shelters, brings warning from police


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Police say the number of cars left idling, and then stolen, has topped last year’s total.

“Remind everybody, it’s cold. I know these temperatures are difficult, and it makes it easy to warm up your vehicle,” says officer Paul Cruz, Wichita Police Department. “And we want to remind everybody, please, if you’re going to warm up your vehicle, make sure you have an eye (on it) or at least don’t leave any vehicle unattended.”

A recent increase of idling cars being stolen has increased by five. That brings the total to 192 this year. And that’s more than last year.

And, while police patrol, they also search for homeless people who could be in trouble in the dangerously cold conditions.

The Inter-Faith Ministries has a shelter near downtown that accepts anyone regardless their situation.

“We take anyone off the street that just needs to get inside,” says Garland Edgerton, Executive Director of Inter-Faith Ministries. “It is a zero-barrier facility. It provides anyone out on the streets to come have a place to stay, and they get a meal, as long as they do not cause problems and be disruptive. We allow anyone, including those slightly intoxicated. They may have to sit outside until they can pull themselves together, but the goal is to provide a shelter so anyone in our city who needs a place to stay can get out of the cold.”

Edgerton says they provide a meal at night and a small breakfast. But they also provide, free of charge, coats and socks and hats.

“The Wichita community is very giving,” says Edgerton. “Churches and individuals donate clothing, they donate shoes, and again the socks. Socks are really important.”

Edgerton says they keep the facility open during the day if the weather gets severe.

“It’s not budgeted, but we find a way to make it work,” says Edgerton. “The faith-based community and individuals give us most of our funding. We do get a few emergency grants from the city, but (most of funding) this comes from well-meaning people of this community who want to help out.”

As homeless seek shelter and Wichita police are on patrol, fire crews have a reminder for those using space heaters.

“With this cold, a lot of people have the space heaters out, and we have to be very, very cautious with that,” says Chief Stuart Bevis, Wichita Fire Department. “They definitely can not be plugged into extension cords. They need to be directly into the wall outlet.”

Fire crews say it’s the time of year to stay warm, but also use common sense when heating your house or apartment.

“Space heaters are great, but they can start fires if they are not plugged into a wall,” says Bevis.

Wichita will stay in the deep freeze for at least another day. A second round of cold weather is expected this weekend.

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